By Janardan Pati in Bhubaneswar, April 15, 2020: The world is passing through dark times and the global crisis is deepening day by day in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions of people have been infected by the virus and about three lakhs have already died. Global World Economy has virtually come to standstill and is worst hit in this millennium.

In India more than 12.2 Crore workers have lost their earnings while about 10 crores migrant workers are facing life and death situation. The migrant workers who worked hard making the nation prosper are dying as they are not getting minimum means of livelihood. Large numbers of working people are suffering due to loss of jobs, loss of wages etc and are being denied the right to a dignified life. In the said situation, the Central Government has made a strategy to let loose a cruel exercise.

The BJP government in Gujarat has increased the working hours from 8 to 12 without providing lawful compensation in accordance to the Factories Act. Other states such as Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan have followed suit. The states of Uttar Pradesh and Tripura have even gone ahead and initiated steps to enact anti workers ordinance which will let the employers hire and fire workers without any rhyme and reason and no labour laws will come to protect the workers.

In fact, the history of the working class is the history of struggle against exploitation. To achieve eight hours working day, the working class has sacrificed a lot and suffered tremendously. In the 19th century, the movement of eight hours work day rocked the whole world particularly the United States and during the said movement huge numbers of workers were killed. In memory of the sacrifice of the Chicago workers in May 1886, May 1st is observed as the International Labour Day and this itself tells us the revolution the movement brought to the forefront. The movement ended as a victory for the workers and most countries of the world accepted the terms of eight hours work day.

Who is a worker? Worker is the person who earns his daily livelihood by selling his labour power to the employer. This applies to the industrial, agricultural and service sector equally. The worker neither possesses the means of production nor owns the produced goods. A worker may work at various fields such as factory, mines, offices, hospitals, bank etc. But he still remains a worker as per its definition. In the capitalist system, everyone but the Capitalist is a worker.

Karl Marx mentioned in the manifesto:

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”

In any given time of the history, without the human labour, the human society could not advance, but in every such age the working class has been exploited by the owners of wealth and the working class has constantly raised its voice against such exploitation.During the freedom struggle in India, the working class movement had added impetus to the freedom struggle. In 1920s the workers’ strike reached to a new high and to check the same the British Government enacted Trade Union Act 1926, Trade Dispute Act 1929 and Public Safety Bill 1929.

The Public Safety bill however was rejected in the central assembly. The Central Assembly was chaired by Sri Bithal Bhai Patel, the elder brother of Sardar Ballav Bhai Patel, who casted his vote against the bill and as a result the bill was rejected by 62-61 votes. Pursuant to the said rejection, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dutt threw a bomb in the Central assembly and raised slogan against the said bill. Later, they were arrested and after two years of the said incident Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged in Lahore jail. The working class of India had observed three days strike in memory of the three martyrs.

Since Independence, the working class movement has reached a new phase and during every crisis, the ruling class has imposed more and more burden on the working class. For example, during the emergency in 1975-77 where the workers’ right to strike was taken away and the bonus rate was reduced to merely 4%.

After the Neo Liberal Economic Policy was implemented in the year 1991, the working class of India has waged nationwide strike 18 times against the capturing of Indian markets and its economy by the foreign capital. The working class has also been protesting against the decisions of privatisation of the public sector enterprises.

In Odisha, about 50 lakhs workers have lost their job due to Covid-19 outbreak. Workers from various sectors such as transport, construction, tourism, hotels and other small businesses are in distress. Odisha government has also issued ordinance forcing the workers to work for 12 hours a day and 72 hours a week. This itself is violation of the provisions of the Factories Act and also will put the workers particularly the female workers in a very bad position.

The ruling parties, the industrialists and the governments have united against the working people. Since Modi has come into power in 2014, the central government has taken steps to abolish 44 labour laws that were protecting the workers from such exploitation. Now, under the cover of the pandemic, the central and the state government have unleashed an attack on the working class.

It is the duty and responsibility of the Odisha Government to make sure that the migrant workers are provided with job as soon as they reach the state. But the government is planning to reduce the workers from the factories and push them into labour market. The 12 hour working day will reduce the number of workers as the shifts will go down from 3 to 2, making sure that the workers of one shift lose their job. Moreover, making them work for 12 hours a day will have adverse effect on their health.

The governments instead of making life easier for the workers, are making them suffer more by such arbitrary and unreasonable plans but the ultimate result will be precarious when the working class will not surrender before such unjust and unlawful dictates of the government and the capitalists.

*Mr Pati is President, CITU Odisha

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of